Auscultation, the meaning of the title only approximates the meaning of this editorial’s content. Listening to the sounds of the body – serves as a definition for the title word, but listening FOR the sounds of life better serve this fine piece and might serve as a subtitle. The editorial is divided into four sections, each numbered as Chamber #, which brings to mind the components of the heart, the ultimate indicator of body life via body sound. Though the protagonist here is the ear, the heroine is the heart and the vignettes to be described can be ranged from heart-wrenching to endearing.
Chamber 1: Six miners are buried alive far below. Without sight or direct communication, electronic ears are erected and seismic sounds are listened for – in vain. The search for life is ceremonially begun with three small explosions at the surface which serve to communicate to the miners to make noise which will indicate their health to those above. All listeners heard no sound and the rescue was abandoned with little ceremony except the sealing of the tomb of the silent six.
Chamber 2: You are brought back in time to your first doctor’s exam using a stethoscope. The feelings of the device on your body. The gentle instructions issued by the doctor and followed by you. The silence, except for breath, as your body sang its tune of condition into the black flexible tubes, giving clues to the ear, and a diagnosis to only a skilled doctor. What your body told the listener and what the listener told you would be the legacy of your visit and the path of your health.
Chamber 3: The stethoscope is a product of centuries of medicine’s quest to extract sounds from deep within the body where prying eyes cannot see. From rudimentary to refined, the listening device has progressed from a monaural horn, to a bin aural listening device, to an electronic noise translator. Still less than perfect, doctors train their ears on classical music – learning to discern the individual instruments. Further, a doctor’s emblem is his stethoscope, and the sight of it serves as his good word.
The author tells of doctor and parents gathered around a fetal heart monitor awaiting the news of life. The doctor acknowledging the noise as normal. The author accepting that “It begins” with those first sounds. He did not feel like a father until the heart noises registered in his ear. That tap-tap-tap signal of life we cannot see and can in no other way sense.
Chamber 4: Nine miners are buried alive far below. Without sight or direct communication, the trapped men listen for sounds from the surface – the ceremonial three small explosions at the surface – but don’t hear anything. The trapped men continue to pound on the roof bolts but they get no response. At the surface the drill operator finally punches through into the cavity and then quiets the gathered crowd. He feels or hears the rhythmic sound of the trapped men hammering at the steel. Life is detected and lives are saved from a place not seen but heard.